The federal government’s economic stimulus dollars are here again: The federal government’s National Science Foundation awarded Stetson University a $610,000 grant to renovate and modernize five research laboratories in its Sage Hall science building.
The foundation, the federal government’s $7 billion science-research and development agency, was itself awarded a one-time, $3 billion grant as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package President Obama signed into law in February 2009. Stetson’s renovation grant is part of that money.
Stetson’s project will begin in early October and take about four months. Sage Hall is the primary research facility for Stetson science students and is attached to the university’s new 22,000-square foot Science Center, which opened in 2009.
The renovations in Sage Hall will include new furnishings such as tables and work benches, fume hoods needed for working with chemicals, air handling improvements, and cosmetic upgrades including new flooring and ceilings. The research labs will be reconfigured, and some walls and doors will be removed to better facilitate collaborative and interdisciplinary research done by Stetson students and faculty.
“Students work with faculty on research university-wide. But here in the sciences, it often involves working on a science experiment for at least a semester, maybe longer,” said Biology Professor Dr. Michael King, one of five faculty members overseeing the project. “We want to create spaces that are more student-friendly, where research equipment can be set up permanently for ongoing research by students and their professors.”
Three of the labs to be renovated are for chemistry: the Synthetic Chemistry Research Space, the Chemistry Collaborative Research Space and the Computational Chemistry Computer Space. The other two are for biology, with one that will be shared by psychology students and faculty involved in interdisciplinary neuroscience research. Those labs are the Behavioral Neuroscience Research Space and the Aquatic Biology Collaborative Research Space. The labs also will be used by Stetson’s integrative health science, environmental science and physics programs.
All students in the College of Arts & Sciences propose, complete and present a senior research project, which is required for degree completion. Additional student research is supported by Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) grants, and SURE grantees present their research at both professional conferences and Stetson’s own campus-wide annual research symposium.
The new renovation project is the latest in Stetson’s recent efforts to invest in science education. A number of upgrades were made to the 1960s-era Sage Hall between 2003 and 2008, including the purchase of science instrumentation. The university added its new Science Center, which also has classrooms and labs, and the Rinker Environmental Learning Center in 2009.
Stetson’s Division of Natural Sciences also received its first two endowed, distinguished faculty chairs in 2009 – new Lynn and Mark Hollis Chair of Health and Wellness and the Cici and Hyatt Brown Faculty Fellow & Visiting Professor Program.
The university has emphasized enrollment in science classes and majors, attracting more minority and women students to the science disciplines, and reaching out to environmental organizations and high school students and teachers.